In Young Thomas Hardy (1975), Gittings covered Hardy's life to age 35, when he had his first popular success with Far From the Madding Crowd. This second volume follows Hardy's remaining 52 years, which saw vicissitudes in his reputation as a novelist; his abandonment of prose and in effect, of his first marriage after the outcry against Jude the Obscure; and some 30 years devoted to poetry with mounting recognition of his genius in this genre. Taking his clue to Hardy's life from conflicts discerned in Hardy's early years, Gittings portrays Hardy as ""torn between two worlds""--the rural, lower-class society of his origins and the public celebrity brought him by his works. The tension between the two impaired both of his marriages, weakened his confidence, and darkened his emotions, but gave an energizing peculiarity to his imagination. Hence, with age, Hardy's artistry grew at once more subjective, mysterious, and powerful, drawing many admirers to his Dorset home; they included respectful younger artists such as Virginia Woolf and Robert Graves. As in the first book, Gittings unfolds Hardy's story with a quiet, unpedantic mastery of the biographical sources (many unpublished), which enables him to convincingly revise some previously accepted views, like the customary derogation of Hardy's first wife's intellect and sensitivity--in fact, she contributed much to her husband's novels. What is more, Gittings' economical, sometimes artful writing gives pertinence to every detail as well as to his remarks on Hardy's character and the origins, manner, and purport of Hardy's works.